Joined: May 2011
Amnesia Custom Story: Guide to Horror / Do's and Don't for Scaring Players
I've decided to make a guide that anyone can contribute to: a list of things from the players themselves of what scares them in a map. Feel free to add anything in replies, but try to do it in bullet format to give a clear indication of what you're saying. Have fun with it, you may even help your OWN maps writing your thoughts down!
- Stop pelting us with jump scares: Honestly, this thread spells it all out: http://frictionalgames.com/forum/thread-13033.html . I think the only reason people wish to do it is so they can watch the people on Youtube freak out when they play your map. You may have the satisfaction of making someone jump, but I promise you, the satisfaction of truly getting under their skin is a wonderful feeling that will stay with you a very long time.
- EVERYTHING contributes to the atmosphere: Some players think that they can simply make their map layouts and don't need to work on the details. I will kill that right here: you do. Having a detailed map will increase the atmosphere, as you aren't thinking you are running through a place layed out in the editor, but an actual ENVIORMENT. If the map isn't detailed, we feel like rats running around in a maze, seeking out our next scripted event.
- The main scares have to happen for a REASON: This is a big one people forget. Let me point out a great example from the main game: the skulls in the drawer. This was a great scare, because not only was it unexpected, it FIT INTO THE CONTEXT, because the room it was in was already established as a room where animals were killed, so the skulls are there for a reason. Along with this are things like a monster walking in the distance in the prison. This established that the area you are in is a dangerous one and you should tread carefully. A corpse flying out of the darkness is only there to scare the player, and has no relevance to ANYTHING in the story. If it's a scare, it has to be in context in some form. Any form. Another note to this is that it does not apply as much to ambient sounds. Anything creepy can be used for ambience, just don't make it something TOO ridiculous, like chains rattling when you are in a mansion level.
- Don't have everything happen TO the player: This is a HUGE thing that people forget, and something that subconsciously makes things much scarier without us realizing it. I am going to point out the last 2 examples because I feel they are simple and get the point across in a strong manner. The skulls in the drawer were scary because all of a sudden, you FOUND them. You were searching around, and if you didn't open that drawer, no scare would have happened. That fact makes it MUCH scarier when it happens. Now back to the flying corpse. Another reason that isn't scary is because it happened AT the player with the desire to scare them. You don't feel like you are in a horrifying place, you feel like you are in a corny haunted house ride where YOU are the main focus. You feel like the designer is guiding you through a series of scripted events instead of allowing you to EXPERIENCE the fear, if you catch my drift. Also notice that not ALL scares have to be this way (the iron maiden is an example in the main story, that sure as hell was directed at the player).
- "What would the player be thinking right now?": This is another big point (again), and really the only one that is needed to craft a good scare. If you place an item right in front of a dresser, if you have a very long hallway with a door at the end, and if you have the player pick up an item and have to do backtracking through a scary area to get where they need to use it, guess what? They're expecting a scare. If you hit them with it, don't expect much of a reaction (some even get annoyed, thinking you thought they would fall for it). You must remember that while someone is playing, they are constantly analyzing, predicting, planning, ect. You must craft your scare in a way that it doesn't come exactly when the player expects it, and isn't something they expect.
- Allow some time for the atmosphere to soak in: This ties back to the first point, and why making a truly scary story requires you to put in a load of effort in all areas. You have to make a well lit and detailed area, and allow the player to soak it all in through visuals and sound effects and progression before hitting them with something. When you hit them with something, and it is something using the last tip I described, THAT is a true scare, and is something that will stay with them. It doesn't even have to be a jump scare, just SOMETHING that is just perfect for that particular moment. Remember the main game, how you were constantly terrified despite the fact that few things actually happened? THAT'S what creeps people out. If you don't allow for a recharge before the next scare, you won't get much of a reaction, if any. You can have plenty fun building up the fear with sounds and small creepy details. Remember to distribute the scary focus all across the WHOLE story, not just specific points.
- Stop using THAT sound effect: Remember that sound effect that happened when the Iron Maiden burst open? It's in every custom story for scares nowadays. See if you can find a different sound (if someone could give me a name it would be great).
- Keep use of Poofers to a minimum: The monsters that disappear before they touch you. The main problem with this is that they are always put in scenarios that would be wildly unfair to the player, such as a monster charging a player with no means of escape. The player goes "There is no way the creator would put someone in such an unfair situation and expect them to live, so I'm assuming this monster isn't real". Usually, they are right, unless you really put them in a situation that they would barely be able to survive (which is bad scripting, by the way: if a monster is real, there should be a way where players of all skill levels can escape it without an unfair amount of difficulty). That scenario, as well as poofers bursting out of dressers, have made players much more savvy when approaching a dresser in a custom story. Avoid those uses, and see if you can use a poofer in a unique way if you must.
- Custom sounds are scarier because we've never heard them! :This one is both a great scare tactic and fun for the creator. Get a free sound recording program and record sounds you find off the internet. Players will be MUCH more freaked out by things they haven't heard before then the usual Amnesia sounds. Custom music is great too. Speaking of which:
- Use musical variety, and make it fit the theme of the map: A problem I had with Emma's story is it was using the damned guest room music in the TORTURE CHAMBERS. I simply couldn't get sucked in because I was witnessing all these supposed-to-be-scary things with this calm ass music playing in the background. Make sure to use different music in each area, something that fits in with the scares and sound effect used there, but most importantly, what you want players to be FEELING when they are there!
- Beta test, and not just for bugs: Some people beta test their stories just for bugs. Don't do that. Do it for bugs, AND have the person record their reactions, or at least give you a detailed breakdown of what worked and what didn't. Sometimes you will try to do everything right, and a scare will still fall on it's face. It happens. Just make sure your testers tell you why. Also, use at least 3 or more testers; if the majority says something worked for them, it can probably stay unless you feel otherwise. Sometimes there will be someone who won't react the way you want no matter what you try. See what a good chunk of people think first.
Add anything you think needs to be said in a reply, and I'll be sure to add it to the list!
(This post was last modified: 02-12-2012 04:31 AM by danthaman15.)